By Daniel Bukszpan, CNBC.com
Banned Luxury Goods
In November 2011, West Hollywood, Calif., became the first city in the U.S. to ban the sale of clothing made of animal fur. The ban goes into effect in 2013 , and animal rights activists are hopeful that it will lead other cities to adopt similar measures and, ultimately, end the practice of using animal fur entirely.
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If history is any indication, even an all-out nationwide ban on animal fur is unlikely to squelch demand. Rather, the likelihood is that it would simply create a black market for such items. After all, many luxury goods have existed for centuries and enjoyed widespread popularity despite official bans, and stiff penalties and long prison sentences for those found trafficking in or purchasing such goods. Clothing with animal fur has always had an image of luxury and sophistication for those who wear it, and banning it would likely do little to change that.
What are some in-demand luxury goods that enjoy worldwide status and popularity despite being banned?
Python SkinPython Skin
Python skin has been used in China since ancient times to construct the erhu, a traditional bowed musical instrument. Ever since the reptile was added to the endangered species list, China has strictly regulated the trade of python skins, and only allows erhus to be made from snakes that are specifically raised on farms and not in the wild.
The state of California banned snakeskin in 1970, but that didn't stop actress Reese Witherspoon from toting around a $3,820 python handbag from Chloe. When People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals caught wind of it, they sent her a video depicting the methods used to cull its materials, and she promptly shoved it into the back of her closet, much to PETA's delight.
Ever since 1992, the American showerhead has been legally constrained from delivering more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute, thanks to a federal law designed to conserve natural resources. Then, in 2010, the Department of Energy revised its requirements to say that all sprays, nozzles, and openings above an individual's head are considered to be one showerhead, and all of its combined openings were not permitted to exceed the 2.5-gallon-a-minute maximum.
The 2010 revision affects luxury showerheads, such as the Raindance Imperial 600 AIR, which has a 24-inch spray face and once retailed for more than $5,000 . The fixture, and others like it, can emit 12 gallons of water per minute, vastly exceeding the new regulations. To show that it meant business, the Department of Energy fined four showerhead manufacturers almost $200,000 for noncompliance in May 2010.
Foie GrasFoie Gras
Foie gras is the liver of a duck or a goose that has been subjected to a special fattening process two weeks prior to its slaughter. The process is known in French as "gavage," in which the animal is force-fed corn through a tube. The process makes the liver taste irresistibly rich, and it is a popular French delicacy.
The force-feeding process has outraged than a few animal rights activists, and foie gras production is banned in numerous European nations. It has also been banned in several places in the U.S., including a two-year ban in Chicago and a ban set to take effect in California in 2012 . Elsewhere in the U.S. it's still legal, however, and a 4.76-ounce can of Rougie duck foie gras sells for $39.50 at 1-800-caviar.com.
Beluga CaviarBeluga Caviar
Caviar, like champagne, is associated with luxury and extravagance. One of the most desirable varieties is Beluga caviar, which comes from the beluga sturgeon and is the most expensive caviar in the world -- provided you can get it.
The Beluga sturgeon is an endangered species, and in 2005 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned the importation of Beluga caviar. One of the only legal ways to acquire it is to personally visit Caviar House & Prunier U.K. and sample the Beluga caviar it produces in-house. It is not sold online.
Cuban CigarsCuban Cigars
In February1962, President John F. Kennedy imposed a trade embargo against Cuba and ever since American cigar enthusiasts have had to be satisfied with American stogies or those of her allies. According to most cigar enthusiasts, however, almost any cigar grown outside of Cuba is a pale substitute for the real thing.
Pierre Salinger, who served as Kennedy's press secretary at the time, claimed that the president ordered him to procure 1,000 Cuban cigars one day prior to putting the embargo into effect. Almost 50 years later, the ban remains in effect, but the Cuban cigar industry has remained afloat. In 2010, worldwide sales rose 2 percent, thanks to an emerging market for the product in China.
"People know the cigars are the best," said KC Chan, who manages distribution of Habanos SA cigars to mainland China.
See the full list: Banned Luxury Goods
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By Daniel Bukszpan, CNBC.com